Michigan Fair Housing Centers Complete Third HUD Enforcement Contract

The six private, non-profit, fair housing enforcement organizations in Michigan (FHC-Detroit; FHC-Grand Rapids; FHC-Jackson; FHC-Muskegon; FHC-Tri-County; FHC-Washtenaw County) have recently completed work, and submitted a final report, on their third Fair Housing Initiatives/Private Enforcement Initiative (FHIP) contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A few statistics from that final report are worth sharing with a wider audience than they few people at HUD who have the responsibility for reviewing the work of the Michigan FHCs.

During the one year project (7/27/92-7/27/93) the Michigan FHCs received and investigated, with FHIP and non-FHIP funds, a one-year MFHC high of 522 new housing discrimination complaints: 328 alleging racial discrimination; 165 familial status and/or age; 63 handicap status; 47 marital status; 43 sex; 23 national origin; 5 religion; 1 color; 21 other (125 of the complaints alleged discrimination on more than one basis). The MFHCs conducted 394 fair housing tests on 253 of those 522 complaints - 244 of those tests conducted with FHIP funds, 150 conducted with non-FHIP funds. Evidence to support the claim of discrimination was found in 138 of the tests; 163 tests were inconclusive; 93 tests did not disclose any significant differences in treatment of the testers. When the inconclusive tests are removed from the total, because no units were available for either tester, nearly 60% of the remaining tests (138 of 231) disclosed evidence to support the claim of discrimination made by the complainant. The MFHCs referred 29 of the complainants to HUD or the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for further investigation of their cases; 35 complainants were referred to MFHC Cooperating Attorneys for litigation; 14 of those referred cases were actually filed in state and federal courts by the end of the program year, with the remaining 21 awaiting filing in the next few months.

The report notes that since the MFHCs began participation in HUD's FHIP programs (August 18, 1990) the MFHCs have seen 79 of their cases filed in state and federal courts, with each of the six MFHCs accounting for at least one of those cases. Thirty-seven (37) of the lawsuits have been closed: 2 were dismissed by the courts; 35 were resolved with awards or settlements for plaintiffs totalling $573,650.00 (not including the $160,000 award in Darby v. Heather Ridge), an amount that is $60,000 more than it cost HUD to fund the MFHCs for the three years they have been selected to participate in the FHIP program. With 42 "open" lawsuits (including Darby v. Heather Ridge) at the end of the FHIP III report period (7/27/93), it is likely that the amount of financial recovery for plaintiffs will more than double the cost of the federal investment in the program.

Finally, the report notes that the MFHCs have 465 trained testers who are available to assist in test investigations and over 35 private practice attorneys in Michigan who are actually representing MFHC referred complainants, with another 30 Cooperating Attorneys patiently awaiting case referrals from one of the MFHCs. The MFHCs began their fourth contract year with HUD under the FHIP program on September 27, 1993.

Reprint from the October FAIR HOUSING NEWS, of the Detroit Fair Housing Center